Melbourne pizza hotspot 400 Gradi is bringing a slice of Neapolitan tradition to Adelaide.
Johnny di Francesco was just 12-years-old when he started slinging dough to buy a pair of Nike sneakers.
From there he was hooked, opening his debut restaurant at just 19 and bringing Neapolitan pizza to Melbourne with 400 Gradi. Today, he’ll fire up the ovens in Norwood with his first Australian restaurant outside of Melbourne.
The logic behind di Francesco’s decision to enter the Adelaide market is simple: “why not?”.
This willingness to take geographical risks shouldn’t come as a surprise; 400 Gradi has shunned the traditional Sydney expansion in favour of outposts in New Zealand, the Middle East, and aboard P&O’s Pacific Explorer.
“People disregard Adelaide in the other states and I think they’re wrong,” di Francesco says. “Here, you have some of the best wineries, you’ve got amazing produce [and] some of the best water lines for seafood”.
All 400 Gradi restaurants adhere to the strict specifications of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. This means a kitchen fitted with two hulking Italian-imported wood ovens. It also means the highest quality imported ingredients.
Tomatoes come from San Marzano and olive oil from Puglia. As for the flour, that too flies the Italian flag despite “most of the grains coming from Australia”.
In keeping with tradition, fresh is best. Pastas are house-made and lambs boned on site.
With a new restaurant comes a new menu but select Gradi staples remain. “The margherita is a given, that will always stay on; our homemade gnocchi, people rave about them; our meatballs; our arancini; and our field olives,” says Johnny.
Other classics have been given a facelift. Once a standard linguine, Gradi’s crab pasta is now a house made squid ink fettucine with spanner crab, asparagus, garlic and chilli.
So, what does the World Pizza Champion consider the perfect slice? “There’s only two types of pizza in the world,” he laughs. “There’s Neapolitan pizza and there’s everything else”.
“It’s a pizza that’s cooked in a wood-fired oven, cooked for no longer than 90-seconds. It has a beautiful crust or coniccione. It’s soft, it’s pliable and the toppings on top aren’t cooked too much, they’re heated just enough to keep the beautiful flavours in every single ingredient” Johnny explains.
The list goes on: “You should be able to fold your pizza, it shouldn’t just stand straight like a piece of board; and it shouldn’t be too crisp, for me that’s the ultimate pizza”.
Melbourne firm, Dean Dyson Architects are behind the fit out. It’s sleek and moody, with variety of diner experiences front of mind. “This is one of the best we’ve designed,” says Johnny
Most 400 Gradi restaurants host upwards of 200 diners. Comparatively, the Norwood spot seats just 110. The smaller size lends itself to a more intimate dining experience, perfect for sharing a menu of antipasti, da divideer and contorni. “That’s how I love eating, so I want people to experience how I like to eat when I go out,” explains Johnny.
400 Gradi Norwood opens today from 12pm.
WHERE? 121 The Parade, Norwood
WHEN? Sunday – Thursday: 12.00 – 22.00 / Friday & Saturday: 12.00 – 23.00
COME HERE FOR: A delicious partnership of authentic Italian fare and local produce
EXPECT TO PAY: $$
OF NOTE: The margherita, awarded World’s Best Pizza at the 2014 Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza in Italy.
Photography by Ben Neale